As Drought Intensifies, 2 States Dig In Over Water War
by GRANT GERLOCK
February 06, 2013
Epic water battles are the stuff of history and legend, especially in the West. And as a severe drought drags on in the Midwest, a water war is being waged over a river that irrigates agriculture in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas.
It’s that last border crossing where this water war is under way. Kansas has gone to the Supreme Court to argue that Nebraska uses too much water from the Republican River, and that there’s not enough left for Kansas farmers.
In Clifton, Kan., on the short end of the river, farmer Mark Taddiken is worried about having a short supply of water. He wears heavy canvas overalls on a cold, gray morning as he stands in his field with black cattle chewing yellow cornstalks. He’s measuring the charge of the electric fence that keeps the cattle from roaming away.
Like the nearby Republican River, the fence isn’t worth much if there’s no current.
Three-quarters of Taddiken’s farmland in north-central Kansas is irrigated with center pivots — tall sprinkler systems that irrigate in circles in fields of corn and soybeans. If the river stays low, like it is now, Kansas law limits Taddiken to a third of his normal irrigation plan, limiting what he can grow. He estimates he could lose $500 per acre from reduced yields.
“We’re standing out here under this pivot right now that covers 120 acres,” he says. “That restriction on that one well alone would be around $60,000.”